Maiden of the Nile

African Stories
// 19 January 2020
Maiden of the Nile by Chioma Ngaikedi

Ojaka swears he had seen her bathing at the center of the sea, seen her scaly tail, swinging and glittering in the silver rays of the moon. Her long, moon braids flowing to her waist. Her breast was high and firm, with pebbles of stone standing at the tips of the mound. Her teeth shone like the moon.Her face creased as she turned towards Ojaka, her eyes piercing into his soul.

It was Ofala day and Ojaka had set out to the sea. The need to bring home a big catch for dinner had driven him deeper and deeper into the sea and even after the sun had begun to die, and golden shadow of the sun dancing at the surface of the water began to sink, Ojaka paddled on. Every stroke laced with determination. Sweat rolled down his shoulders, his face burrowed in worry, a curse trapped beneath his teeth. He paddled, swinging his oar side by side, pushing his boat faster and faster. Every crash of the wave against his boat was a fuel. He knew if he could just get to the middle, he will catch as many fishes to last him till the next afor day. Time were hard in Aguma village. The streams were drying out. Aguma fishermen dove in numbers to the Nile and even there too, fishes seem to have deserted the waters.

But not today, Ojaka swore. He must claim a prize. He must wrestle the sea to its back.

Beads of sweat glued to his face as he paddled nearer to the middle. The waves seemed to scream, the wind turned cold. His paddle felt like a rod still Ojaka pushed on.

Then, all of a sudden, he saw it. A figure covered in mist. Jumping and diving between the waves was a woman. Skin glowing like the purest bronze. Her long moonlike braids flowed to her waist. Her waist had strings of cowries and beads that jiggled as she moved. Her nose, pointed like the mask carving at Ikengene shrine.

Ojaka froze, his tiny boat tossed about the water. The waves swelled around her. Her tail swirled and danced to the music of the waves.

Then, she turned to him. His oar slipped from his hand. His breath got caught in his nostrils, his heart stopped beating. He dropped to his knees in worship. His mouth was open but no words came through. What could he say to this beauty? How could he worship a goddess?

She swirled towards him, drawing closer and closer. His head grew bigger. His palms began to sweat. She looked even more beautiful at close up. Ojaka felt a sharp pang of yearning burning down his soul. The overwhelming need to have her. To possess her. To own her.

She watched Ojaka, laughter glowing in her eyes as though she could read his thoughts, she smiled. Her smile came with a burst of a million stars. Ojaka felt his worries fading, warmth racing up his legs, a cloud of joy clogging at his throat.

He reached for his loin cloth and pulled his purse. It had 40 gold coins. All his life savings. All he was saving for the marriage to his bride, Akuoma.

He opened the purse, the gold coins glittered.
She stopped. Her eyes bore holes in Ojaka’s face. Her scaly hip brushed against the side of Ojaka’s boat.

He stood and raised up his hands above his head, the gold coins cradled in his palms. He hurled it down at her, the coins rolled from her head, to her shoulders, then down her braids and into the water. The coins suddenly seemed to have a life of its own, glowing and bouncing around her like a golden circle.

She blinked, her face turning up to him. Her eyes beamed.

“Ojaka” she whispered, her breath fanned his nose as she pressed her lips upon his.

Ojaka knew that moment, his sacrifice was accepted.

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